Authors: Evelyn Glass
She let out a laugh. At least, he was honest. If he could bare his soul, so could she. “Same here.”
“But I want to explore this further, see where it takes us. You and me, we could have a bright future together. And if not that, then at least a beautiful friendship. But it depends on you. Do you want to see how far we can go together?” he said in a voice that sounded so reasonable, so wise.
He offered her the world – but she was scared to accept it.
She considered his words, pondered over the implications and potential consequences. At worst, she risked hurting herself. If she began to spun castles around him and he up and left, she would be devastated. Gabby didn’t harbor desires to settle down with a man and have a kid. Such innocent dreams were for those who weren’t marred by the harsh realities of life. She never saw anything good in her young existence, and that was the reason why her dreams were plain and simple.
Get a job.
Leave the filth of her past behind.
And that was the most that she hoped for.
But he was showing her a glimpse of another world. And this was alien territory. She didn’t know if she wanted to take the plunge. What if she landed face first on the hard floor? She wouldn’t be able to survive the fall.
“I need time to think about it.”
“Take all the time you want.” His arms banded around her middle and he pulled her next to him. Her body, smooth and soft, fit perfectly against his hard planes and angles. “I’m not going anywhere.”
It was a while later that she realized he meant it. He didn’t intend to move away from her room. His soft snores were like music to her ears, and his heart beat against her, loud and rhythm tic. Listening to it, enjoying the banality of the whole situation, she finally fell asleep. When she woke up, he was still there. Gabby blinked in surprise. This never happened before. She’d never woken up with a man before.
For a few minutes, she lay still, not sure if she was imagining it or if it was real. But then he stirred and she sat. He was right there. And it was the first time in her life that Gabby could see a man wake as he fought the cobwebs of sleep that clung to his eyes. He stretched, yawned, and then smiled when his gaze found hers.
“Never saw a more beautiful sight,” he said. “Good morning!”
“Morning!” She jumped out of bed. Gabby felt filled with energy. “I’ll go down and get us some breakfast.”
“Coffee first, black and strong,” he said as he sat.
Gabby wore her clothes at a hurried speed, went into the bathroom to brush her teeth, and pull her hair in some kind of an organized mess, and then went downstairs to secure some breakfast. It was early yet. Mala was fiddling with the coffee machine. Even though he didn’t want it, she still toasted some bread, put in butter on a side dish, and fried a couple of eggs. Mala moved way. Gabby poured coffee, set the cups in the tray, and took it upstairs.
Somehow she had a feeling that if she didn’t hurry, he would disappear. But much to her delight, he was seated on the chair, reading messages on his phone. “Had to use your toothbrush. Hope you don’t mind.”
“No, of course not.” She put the tray down. “I got some toast.”
He glanced down and his eyes widened. “That’s a feast. A man could get used to this five star treatment all too easily.”
Her heart beat with excitement as she took a seat on the bed. The room was really too small for two people, and with his close proximity, it felt even tinier. But right now, it was a mansion. Gabby never shared breakfast with a man.
This was a day for first; the first time a man made love to her, the first time he mentioned the L word, and the first time she slept with him. And the first time she shared breakfast.
Gabby thought her heart would burst with happiness.
She could get used to it all too easily.
Easy, dear! Caution is your best friend.
A voice spoke in her mind.
Gabby ignored it. Just for this one moment, she wanted to savor and relish these delights that other women took for granted. What did people converse about when they shared breakfast? Maybe they talked about their relatives or the current news or perhaps they discussed their schedule for the day.
“What are you doing today?”
He glanced up from the phone and then set it down. Picking up the toast, he bit into it. “We’re transporting some goods. Hopefully all should go well.”
“Oh!” She remembered the last job that went bad. “Will you be behind the driver’s seat?”
“No! It is someone else’s turn. And what about you? Are you going over to check out the curriculum today?”
She remembered her plans to go to the NGO. “Yes, I think I will. I should start soon. Wonder how long it will take me to finish high school.”
“It won’t take long, not if you study hard,” he assured her. “We’re there to help you.”
And with ease, they slipped into other topics. One of the men was due to visit a doctor today. They needed to buy a new oven. The clubhouse required a new coat of pain. The banal talk warmed her heart. It was more interesting that anything she ever experienced before. When he stood, she put down her cup of coffee.
“I guess I will see you around.” She stood and faced him.
Much to her surprise, he yanked her in his arms and slammed his mouth down on her. His tongue brushed over her lips and then slipped inside. He smelt of hot, dark coffee and warm butter. It was the most delicious kiss she ever experienced. Her body plastered against his, willing and plaint. She could do this forever. Gabby wanted to lose herself in this moment and never face reality again.
But like all good things, it didn’t last.
With an obvious effort, he pulled away.
“You’re too tempting.” He brushed his finger down her nose. “I will see you at night.”
When he left, Gabby dropped on the bed.
Who was she kidding? This was love, bright and strong. She didn’t know if Nick was only toying with the idea or if he felt the same way, but for her, this was the real deal.
She loved Nick.
And scary and petrifying as that idea was, she felt hope bubble in her heart.
For better or worse, she was stuck on Nick.
Nick strode down the stairs. He felt damn good. It was a long time since he woke up with a woman beside him. And it felt fantastic. Sooner or later, he would have to admit the truth to Gabby.
He was completely, madly, irrevocably in love with her.
But how could you say that to a woman who shuddered whenever he mentioned the word? It would take some time and effort to convince her that he actually cared. She saw too many bad things in her life, and he needed to allow the wounds to heal at their own speed. But he wanted to ease her burden, and he wanted to wipe away that wrinkle of worry that always played on her face.
Soon! He promised himself.
As he sat on the bike and wore his helmet, Ronald and Matt rode their bikes in the yard. He waited as they came to a stop and parked the bikes. “Good morning,” he said.
Ronald’s gaze wandered to the door of the clubhouse and came back to settle on him. “Looks like someone is in a chirpy mood today.”
Nick grinned. “Don’t be jealous, man. You’re like this every single day.”
“It’s nice what a good woman can do to you.” Ronald flexed his muscles as he came towards him. “Everything set for the afternoon?”
“We’ve got the truck,” said Nick. “And I’ve contacted the distributors. They will be at the unloading area on time. But I have got this nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach.”
“Why?” said Matt. “Did you eat something you shouldn’t have?”
Nick ignored the jibe. “Something might go wrong today.”
“That was just a bad day, dude,” said Matt. “Nothing like that would happen again.”
Nick considered Matt. Did he actually feel confident that they didn’t have a traitor in their midst or was he just ignoring the threat? What if someone was out to betray them? It was quite a possibility – and one they certainly couldn’t ignore. “I am going to scout out that area before the delivery takes place.”
“Be my guest,” said Ronald. “But I am sure Matt is right. That was just plain bad luck.”
Nick drove off. He didn’t believe in bad luck. Life offered few coincidences, and each one of them made him suspicious. He wanted to be sure that they weren’t sending more of their men into danger. After losing two, he felt that it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit more careful than they usually were. First he went home as there was time before the men drove the stolen goods out of the warehouse they rented to stock it. Closer to the appointed hour, he went to the place. Nick drove around carefully through each street that surrounded the warehouse.
Before setting the date, he took the time to scout the area so that he was aware of each entry and exit into the warehouse and the best route to take to avoid traffic and trouble. This knowledge came in handy as he could check each alley and street he’d marked in his mind.
It didn’t take him long to figure out that something was royally screwed over.
He called Ronald from a pub. “Call off the transportation plan.”
“They are on to us. I found two unmarked police cars in the vicinity.”
“They might be doing something.”
Nick didn’t usually argue with Ronald who was his mentor into the club, but just this once, irritation crept through his voice. “Call it off unless you want to send two more of them in jail. We will figure out another date to move the stuff.”
He broke off and then sped back towards the clubhouse. By the time he reached, the committee members were already pouring in. “Are you sure?” asked Ronald as soon as Nick entered.
Nick pulled back a chair and sat. He was simmering with rage. “Of course, I am sure. And if you think I am wrong, you can drive the bloody truck there yourself and see where you land up.”
Silence reigned in the room. “What does this mean?” asked James.
“It means we have a bloody traitor in our midst. Someone is snitching on us, and we need to find that bastard,” announced Nick.
Everyone stared at each other. It was so unprecedented for the members not to have unflinching faith in each other. Although many of them were from different walks of life, they were brothers from heart. Anyone of them would die for the others. Harboring the idea that one was working with police was unthinkable, horrifying.
“That’s a very serious accusation, Nick. You don’t have any proof.”
“I don’t need proof. At least not now. But when I have that bastard’s neck in my hands, trust me, I will get enough proof to hang him.”
“It doesn’t have to be one of us,” said Matt.
Nick dismissed him with a wave of his hand. He and Matt never saw eye to eye on many matters. Their personalities rubbed against each other, and although Nick owed him his loyalty because they were club brothers, he didn’t particularly like the man. “An outsider wouldn’t know about our dealings.”
Matt picked up his bottle of beer and took a healthy swig. “It could be one of the others who hang about in the club. Without us knowing about it, they pick up a lot of information.”
Nick’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”
“It’s obvious enough, man! It could be the girls.”
Mala, Suzy, Willow, and Gabby who were all working in the bar stiffened. Nick saw them lean forward on the counter as they listened to the discussion. True, they girls knew far more than they needed to. Technically, they weren’t members of the club but in reality, they ran the clubhouse and were privy to a lot of information.
“Willow is my Old Lady. She wouldn’t do something like that,” Ronald defended her. “Don’t even think about it.”
“I wasn’t referring to Willow.” Matt’s gaze met Nick. Sparks flew between the two men. “There is someone who is relatively new. She is practically an outsider.”
“Gabby?” Nick said, his teeth clenched so hard that there was a danger his jaw might break. “It’s not her.”
“And how do you know that? She has only been here for a month. We’ve never had trouble with the police before. The rest of the girls have lived with us for a considerable more time. If they planned to sell us out, it would’ve happened before.”
“It’s not Gabby,” Nick insisted. Although he didn’t even glance in her direction, he was quite aware that she listened to the entire discussion with unwavering attention. “It’s not her.”
“She goes out on her own. Hey, Gabby, come here,” Matt beckoned her.
She came forward. “Yes?”
“Did you go out in the morning today?”
“Yes. I went to the NGO to collect stuff.”
Matt pointed at her. “See, she went out. It’s possible that she made a call to the police from outside.”
“I didn’t do any such thing,” she protested.
Ronald tapped his fingers on the table. “She didn’t know about the delivery, man! How could she snitch about it? Not many people knew the date and time.”
“Nick knew.” Matt’s eyes glowed with fervor. “Did she know about the delivery, Nick?”
Although he was tempted to lie to protect Gabby, he’d a duty to the club. They came first and he couldn’t, in good conscious, tell a blatant untruth. “She knew we’d a delivery today but she didn’t know the place and time.”
Ronald leaned forward. Technically, the men weren’t allowed to divulge any significant information to the woman. “Why the fuck did she know about the delivery?”
“Pillow talk, Ronald. Nick spent the night with her,” said Matt with a lascivious grin.
Some men stirred. Although most of them chose to stay out of this discussion, all of them appeared interested in this new development. Nick never showed any lasting interest in a woman. “She didn’t know anything important,” Nick said.
Matt stood and circled around the table towards Gabby. “She could’ve picked up tidbits from here and there. Men drink...and when they drink, they talk. And she is always at the bar, listening, eavesdropping on private conversations, cozying up to everyone. I bet she is an informant, a plant by the police.”
“That’s a fucking lie.” Nick stood. Defending Gabby so vehemently wasn’t part of his plan, but when Matt targeted her, he couldn't just sit idle. “She works at the bar. Of course, she hears stuff, just like other girls do. That doesn’t make her a snitch.”
Matt stopped a few feet away from Gabby. Her expression conveyed fear. But she didn’t take a step back. Instead, her gaze bored into Matt’s. “I didn’t do it.” Her voice was loud, firm. “You guys offered me sanctuary. I would never do anything like that.”
“Why the fuck should I believe you?” he snarled into her face. “I don’t know you, but I know my men, and they wouldn’t do anything like this.”
“Leave her alone.” Nick leapt forward. His hand settled on Matt’s arm and he drew the other man back. When Matt shrugged out of his embrace, Nick placed himself between Gabby and Matt. “She didn’t do anything.”
“How the fuck do we know, man? Let me have a few minutes alone with her, and she will confess.”
Nick could imagine what would happen if he allowed Matt to take her into a separate room. Although violence was frowned upon in the clubhouse and among the members, the women were often fair game. And since they weren’t officially members of the club, their protection was rudimentary. If a man claimed a woman as his Old Lady, she was sheltered from the worst. But the rest of them were up for grabs.
Gabby wasn’t due any defense because she didn’t have a protector.
But he was there!
And he would see to it that Matt didn’t bully her.
“You’re not taking her anywhere,” he growled.
“I thought you wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery?” Matt snarled. “Is she more important than the safety of your brothers?”
“She is not a threat. If she was, I wouldn’t protect her.”
No one dared say anything as the two men glowered at each other. It was rare for one of them to go against the other. Such a thing was unheard of. Even if there were differences, they were sorted through words and not fists. But for the first time since he joined the club, Nick felt the urge to smash his fist in another’s face.
If Matt wasn’t careful, there would be a brawl. And he didn’t mind beating the shit out of the other if he didn’t lay off Gabby.
“She is the only one who could’ve done it,” Matt insisted. His hands clenched into fists, and Nick could see the struggle on his face. He was trying to resist throwing in the first punch.
Well, bring it on.
Nick was ready for anything. “Ronald, back me up here. We need to question her.”
Ronald scratched his head in an absent-minded gesture. “Until this matter is sorted out, it might be a good idea for Gabby to go away from the clubhouse.”
“She is not going anywhere.”
“And why the hell not? She is not a member of our club and as such doesn’t deserve our protection.”
“She is my Old Lady, and she isn't going anywhere,” Nick said in a voice that vibrated with rage.
He heard Gabby’s gasp loud and clear. Shit! He didn’t intend to lay it down like this. Cut a long story short, he didn’t even know he was considering the idea. But he couldn’t leave her alone to face the wolves, not when she got into this mess because he decided to spend the night with her. And damn it to hell! He bloody wanted her. Not only sexually but emotionally only. She was the only woman who won his heart in a long time. Every other woman paled in comparison. And he wasn’t going to lose her just because Matt was the world’s biggest dickhead.
Matt’s eyes narrowed. “She is your...what?”
“You heard me. She is my Old Lady so back the hell off!”